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28 Apr—4 May 2008

Issue No. 17             

Biblical GRADUATE school of theology

BGST This Week

Believing in the importance of continuity of ministry in the church, I’ve always been on the lookout for committed young people in our congregation who would offer their lives for the fulltime ministry. Then instead of continuing to be on the lookout, the church and I came to an understanding of the urgency of training committee members and young leaders in our midst. And if it can be of help to leaders of other churches, they would be welcomed. I was then encouraged to come to Singapore to be further equipped for such a vision.

 

I came with a goal of completing my further studies in a year, but I’m sad that the goal can’t be accomplished. The graduation has to be delayed for a year. I’m returning, however, with cherished thoughts and learning in my own spiritual journey.

 

Before I came, I knew that my further studies shouldn’t be confined to academic pursuit. But little did I realize that spiritual formation became the focus of my learning. It began with Spirituality and Work: Journey Inward-Journey Outward by Dr. Paul Stevens, and The Counsellor as a Person: Self-awareness & Maturity in Christ by Mr. Yam Keng Mun, my first two courses. That went beyond text books to self soul-searching. Even after ministering for over 20 years, this has come as a welcome surprise, a profoundly enriching experience.

 

During my mum’s hospitalization in February this year (she went home to be with the Lord on March 2), Dr Stevens, speaking at the chapel, explained what being “life-long theologians” meant. He used the story of Job and his friends. Job’s friends were theologically orthodox; Job wasn’t for he blasted out at God. But God rebuked the friends and commended Job. Why is that so? The secret: Job’s friends spoke about God, but Job spoke to God. To be a life-long theologian, one has to learn to bring one’s details of life to God in prayer.

 

Being in Singapore for the past year, I spent more time with my mum. Our conversation included spiritual talk. She didn’t have deep understanding of theology, but she seemed to know God in a very personal way. I’ve always thought that her prayers, talking to God in a personal manner, were probably characteristic of the elderly folks in her church, the Geylang Methodist Church. I came to realize that it wasn’t the case. It was personal to her. Over the years, my mum had developed that personal and intimate way of talking to God. She brought her details of life to God in prayers. This is what I have to learn and what I will go on learning.

 

Let me share with you from the letter the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, which I find it most endearing. The one verse that grips my heart is 3:10: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” The concept is deeply profound. Through his writing, Paul is deemed to be an apostle and a theologian par excellence. What is there that Paul pursued to know that he had not known? What is there for me to grasp?

 

Exegetically, we understand that what Paul pursues to know is “experiential knowledge.”   Experience or knowledge, standing alone on itself, is inadequate for one’s spirituality as far as Paul is concerned. Paul had never belittled knowledge. He was proud of his strict training, and he expounded with profound theological knowledge when debating with the Judaisers in the book of Galatians. But knowledge alone without life experience can lead to a lifeless orthodoxy. Experience without knowledge, on the other hand, is dangerous. It can lead to heretical practice.

 

The experiential knowledge Paul is tenaciously pursuing is evidenced in his life. He talks about the experiential knowledge of the power of Christ’s resurrection, and the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, being conformed to Christ’s death. And that experiential knowledge flows from his life. I’ve always struggled to come to grips with Paul’s experience stated in the first chapter. He was incarcerated for spreading the gospel. And while suffering in the cell, he had Christians going out boldly to preach Christ, not of good will, but “from envy and strife….from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to [Paul’s] chains” (vv. 15-16). That’s probably hurting in the highest degree! That’s rubbing salt into the wound! But instead of naturally feeling hurt and retaliating, Paul expressed, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (v.18). How could that even remotely I’ve always struggled to come to grips with Paul’s experience stated in the first chapter. He was incarcerated for spreading the gospel. And while suffering in the cell, he had Christians going out boldly to preach Christ, not of good will, but “from envy and strife…from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to [Paul’s] possible, if not for the experiential knowledge of Christ. This is my continual spiritual quest. It’s not easy at all, but it’s never beyond my reach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ps Peter Chng: My Spiritual Journey

Text Box: Highlights

Announcing the launch of BGST Bookstore

There is now a bookstore at BGST.We are starting with a stock of books from acquired from FES which has decided to divest her book business following a recent review. In order to continue encouraging reading among FES students and graduate, BGST will extend the same attractive discounts we give to our students and staff to FES affiliated students and staff.

 

To celebrate our launch we are giving up to 20% discount off the more than 200 titles in our current stock for a limited period up to 17 May. So come and visit us before our stocks run out.

 

Our catalogue can be viewed at http://bgst.edu.sg/bookshop/200804cat.pdf

For inquiries, you may contact BGST Library at 62276815 or email books@bgst.edu.sg

On the issue of personal needs, Paul’s experiential knowledge of Christ underpinned his ability to weather the changing circumstances in life. He was able to testify, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (4:11-13). Paul was quick to disclose, however, that he was far from being able to say that he had arrived. It was his life-long quest. “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:13-14). Lord, this is what I’m going to bring back to Perth. This is my life-long quest and learning. This is what I wish I can share with my congregation. Help me, O Lord.

 

 

Chapel This Week

Our speaker is Wong Choon Yew, Grad. Dip ECF student. Do come and join us.

 

Alumni News

We rejoice with alumnus Timothy Lim (MDiv ‘05) and his wife Sharlene on the birth of their third baby, Zachary, on 5th April 2008. Please remember them in your prayers, including, Matthew (5) and Owen (3). Peter is also leaving for the U.S. in May for his doctoral studies at Regent University Divinity School. His latest update can be found at our website  under “Alumni Newsletters”.

(Peter shared this as Chapel speaker on 24 April. We bid him Godspeed as he returns to his home church in Perth. We enjoyed his warm fellowship with us and look forward to keeping in touch.)